• The Rosewater Doula

The 4 Ingredients in the “Magical Birthing Cocktail”: Hormonal Aspect

We’ve all heard that our bodies produce a “magical cocktail” during labor and birth to fight pain and combat stress. Some people, after giving birth, have even said that this cocktail was responsible for their “pain free” childbirth. Others reflect fondly on their birth, but can’t recall very many specific details. What is this “magical cocktail” and how can we best utilize it’s mystical components? There are FOUR key (hormonal) ingredients in the birthing cocktail. Each one of these ingredients work together and create this “magical birthing cocktail”.

1. Oxytocin (the love hormone)

2. Catecholamines (excitement, adrenaline / fight-or-flight)

3. Beta-Endorphins (the hormones of transcendence)

4. Prolactin (the mothering hormone)

Each of these hormones play an equally important role in pregnancy, labor and birth. When talking about pregnancy, labor and birth the “star” oxytocin gets brought up a lot. The reason why oxytocin is talked about so much during this whole process is because it is ever present during many phases of pre-pregnancy, pregnancy, labor, and birth. This “feel good hormone” orchestrates contractions, helping them to become ‘regular’ oxytocin is in charge of helping contractions get longer, stronger and closer together by encouraging the uterus to contract, while simultaneously pushing the baby down and opening the cervix. Oxytocin production is stimulated by the pressure of the baby’s head against the birthing person’s cervix. Oxytocin has many more impacts, including the “birth high” that tends to be contagious to most in the room after a baby is born. Oxytocin also protects the baby from low levels of oxygen during birth. Some speculate that not all of oxytocin positive impacts are even fully understood yet!

While oxytocin in an abundance is very important, it is crucial to note that oxytocin levels do need to be protected. Oxytocin doesn't always mix well with adrenaline. Adrenaline and oxytocin are friends, however when the birthing person has high levels of stress, and is producing too much adrenaline particularly in the very early stage (practice labor) and the first stage of labor, oxytocin production will decrease, and contractions might slow or even stop. It is important to continually ask yourself if there are any “blocks” or “fears” getting in the way of your oxytocin production—especially pre-second stage, (pushing) However, during the second stage, small amounts of adrenaline are very important, adrenaline provides wonderful boosts of energy that can lead to effective pushing.

Catecholamines. (Epinephrine and norepinephrine, the fight-or-flight hormones) catecholamines add the sweet and bitter to the concoction, they make their first appearance several weeks before the onset of spontaneous labor, this is good. These hormones begin to increase in the baby to help prepare the baby’s lungs for immediate breathing after birth, this happens as fluid in the lungs begins to decrease. Going into the birthing space, have you ever wondered why there is so much emphasis on feeling safe, secure, supported and comfortable? It’s because those four things keep your catecholamines at bay in labor, until they are needed for the second time.

Negative catecholamines are manifested through stresses like fear, anxiety, extreme hunger, lack of privacy, bright uncomfortable light, or discomfortable temperatures. I often tell my clients that they need to prepare their “birthing cave” and I encourage their partners to view themselves as “the keeper of the space” because as you are birthing, your surroundings do have a huge impact on this element of the “magical cocktail.” Catecholamines are important in the birth space, they just need to come into play when it is their turn. Too much stress and anxiety can inhibit the production of oxytocin. The second time the catecholamines are invited into the space is during the pushing phase, they help with the fetal eject response (which is the physiological help of pushing the baby out. Which happens when nerves in the pelvis are stimulated as the baby descends through the birth canal.) And catecholamines also give you a huge boost of energy during the pushing phase.

Beta-Endorphins, (the hormones of transcendence) are naturally occurring opiates that reduce pain and are similar in chemical composition to morphine. Not only does this “cocktail” fight pain, it also creates an altered state of conciseness sending you into Laborland! Once in ‘Laborland’ you are less likely able to recall specific events, and only be able to recall an overall feeling of satisfaction or dissatisfaction based on how you are treated. These are the same hormones responsible for the familiar “runners’ high.” Beta-Endorphins also provide a rush of adrenaline when it comes time to push, similar to the catecholamines. Both beta-endorphins and catecholamines are VERY important during the pushing phase.

Prolactin. (Milk producing hormone) not only is prolactin the main component in milk-production, it also helps baby produce and regulate heat after birth. It is believed that prolactin during pregnancy helps pregnant women to cope effectively with stress—in turn helping the balancing act of the other hormones in play. Some also call prolactin the “mothering hormone,” because alongside with oxytocin, it aids in the bonding between birthing person and child.

During pregnancy, labor, and delivery Maternal receptors actually increase for these hormones. Why is it important to understand the role of these hormones as a birthing person? Well, it’s important to understand them, so you can use them to your advantage. Understanding what is happening in your body on a physiological level brings empowerment into your birth space.




Magical Birthing Cocktail: The Hormonal Aspect

Emily was my doula, she had a peaceful, hopeful influence on my birth experience. I was pregnant with twins and even though I already had given birth naturally twice before, I was still feeling afraid of attempting an un-medicated, vaginal birth for TWINS. It felt overwhelming and unknown to me. Because of her I had the courage to give birth to my twin boys without any medical intervention! It was one of the most beautiful and empowering experiences of my life! Emily was so attentive and cheerful during my birth. I know my twin birth experience would not have been this successful without her. She kept me calm, relaxed, and even happy! She was encouraging and affirming every step of the way, and I would recommend her to anyone looking to create a peaceful, positive, empowering birth team. -Heidi, Silverdale, WA
When I first met Emily, she was so comfortable to be around that I realized I wanted a doula for all the reasons most women do, but I also wanted a female companion in the room. Being 2,000 Miles from home with no one but my husband by my side was a chilling and foreboding thought...Emily had a great knack for anticipating my needs. When it was all said and done I felt like I’d had my sister in The room with me. I wanted to share everything with her and truly felt bonded with her. -Fawn, Tacoma, WA
My nurses were amazing with all three of my kids, I especially loved my nurses with my youngest kid, but the one person I couldn't thank enough is Emily McGregor my doula. She stuck by my side the whole time rubbed my back, did breathing exercises, got me water, and talked with my hospital staff. When I reach the transition stage I started to get sick and she helped me get through it. Without her I don't know what I would have done!! Emily was my doula but also became a friend. -Emily C. Tacoma, WA
Emily is someone that I cannot birth without! She is the definition of the perfect birthing partner. During my delivery she was by my side the entire time. She was so in tuned with what I needed and just got up and did it so that my husband and I could stay focused on bringing our perfect little boy into this world. -Ashtyn, Olympia, WA
Emily is as compassionate as she is professional, and as adaptive as she is capable. When looking for a doula, the best we can usually hope for is someone who can do the job. Emily goes above and beyond that and becomes a friend. Her love and encouragement are some of the best chapters in the story of my son's birth. I recommend her with both enthusiasm and deep gratitude. -Christine, Silverdale, WA
Emily  was right there step-by-step guiding me reassuring me and letting me know that I could really do it this time. Once I arrived for my scheduled induction, she made the hospital room resemble the comfort of my home.  After 50 plus hours of labor, My son was born in a room surrounding with love. Emily is very patient understanding kind very enjoyable and easy to get along with and love. If she would have been there for my first pregnancy I probably would have 40 children by now! Her patience her resilience her ways to keep you calm are impeccable. She is an amazing person and as I have told her before she deserves nothing short of the best. -Ananasa
Emily has the most genuine and loving soul. I had an extremely complicated pregnancy, but she stood beside me and never let it scare her away. She was a constant in what felt like the longest uphill battle that would never end...Emily was so attentive and loving and she was able to read the atmosphere of the room and jump into it head first... I couldn't have chosen a better Doula to support me and my family. She truly is one of a kind! -Kristi
When Emily came into the room the whole atmosphere changed. She had a glow, presence, and aura that immediately made everyone feel comforted. This was the first time I had met her and she greeted me with a smile and a warm hug. She spoke softly and calmly to my friend and quickly attended to her needs. I felt a angelic, heavenly spirit from her as she made my friend comfortable and calmed her down. Never the less, I felt secure and good abut leaving for work. I gave her my number. During the night, Emily texted myself and family about her and baby's condition. She was very professional, kind, and great at what she does. I HIGHLY recommend her as a doula. If you want a loving and caring person at your bedside to attend to not just you, but your loved ones please contact her.  -Althea (support/friend of birthing person)
Emily is super sweet and genuine! She helped bring my first baby into this world and was such a great support and asset to birth. She helped prepare my husband and I before, during and after labor. We highly recommend her! -Meghan
From the moment I met Emily I knew I found my doula! At our first meeting she was so nice and seemed so genuine about her love for what she does and the care she puts into her clients. From the prenatal appointments all the way through postpartum she proved it to be true, she was amazing! Always maintaining her professionalism while still feeling like a friend who you could be completely comfortable with. During our prenatal appointments one of the things she did was make sure she had a clear understanding of what I hoped for during birth and also made sure I knew how she would be able to help me achieve my goals. -Tonya
I was late to the game getting a Doula and I was worried I wouldn't be able to make it all work, I was so lucky to have found Emily.  She immediately made me feel at ease...Emily was amazing from the first call she knew I was a little stressed about "being behind" in the process so she scheduled a FaceTime meeting and soon after, I knew it was the right fit, she came to our home to meet my husband.  My husband and I  had a birth plan and when things changed we were so grateful to have Emily just a phone call away to answer questions and talk us through things.  On baby girls' birthday we called Emily and she was at the hospital in no time, she went to work quietly setting up the room and making it feel more like home.  She was encouraging to both myself and my husband who was at times unsure of how to help me.  Emily offered suggestions for different positions, coaxed me through contractions with breath awareness, while at the same time making my husband feel important and included as well.  We had quite a few changes from our original birth plan due to health reasons, but I'm so glad we had Emily to keep us together and ensured that I was still able to have an amazing birth experience.  Emily even took photos on my phone so we had something to look back at and remember that very special day. My husband and I agreed it was the best choice we made during our pregnancy, we highly recommend Emily to anyone looking for an excellent Doula. -Annie, 
While words don’t do her justice, I will say she was an absolute angel, and I honestly don’t know how we could have done it without her. Out of all my A-type birth preparations... The 12 books, the 4 birthing classes, the constant streaming of birthing podcasts, the registry, the YouTube videos, the 10 weeks of intensive HypnoBabies homework… Nothing impacted my birth as positively and profoundly as Emily’s comforting presence. She is selfless, intuitive, tender, proactive, and humble in the way she cared for me and my husband through our abnormally long and intense labor. When my husband and I were holding our new beautiful daughter and reflecting on what had just happened, one of the first things my husband tearfully said to me was, “I really couldn’t have done it without Emily.” I wholeheartedly agree. -Danielle
Our hope was for a VBAC, which we achieved. I owe some of this success to Emily for instilling confidence in me and assuring me that the hospital and birth team I had assembled was on my side. During the birth, she was the calming voice that talked me down during contractions and provided relief via hips squeezes that got me through the toughest stages. She worked really well with the doctors and nurses. She’s a great doula and an excellent addition to any birth team! -Rachel
I hired Emily for my first birth this past June. I wanted a homebirth but had to be in the hospital so I need a doula to support me through this. Emily was amazing! She has so.many resources, is so knowledge about oils, relaxing techniques, lots of natural labor pains remedies, and so much more. More than than any of that though Emily is very sweet, loving, and caring, a very relaxing person to be around. Thank you so much Emily!!!
Emily is a spiritual, humble, and loving lady that you don’t meet that often...I felt like I had known her a long time. Emily came that night with her things she would use to help me stay calm.  She had the room lit up with flameless candles, peppermint and lavender oils.  She had that room smelling so wonderful!  She had this one mean nurse that changed her attitude by walking into my room filled with calming scents.  Emily made sure I was comfortable, she listened to me vent and cry and she never judged me.  She group texted my family to let them know how I was doing and when to start coming over closer to me delivering.  When it was time to deliver, I had to pick 2 people to be in the room with me.  That was an easy choice. I chose Emily and my boyfriend. After my son was born, he had to stay in the NICU for 4 1/2 weeks.  Emily came to visit him twice. She is an awesome person and if I ever have another baby, I would choose her again!!!  Emily is truly a jewel and a gift to help women give birth!  -LeKeshia
Emily was everything that I needed and more!! I would recommend her to anyone and everyone. From the very beginning I felt a connection to her and knew that she was going to be a game changer for my husband and I. We are first time parents and wanted someone there with us to help navigate a lot of uncharted territory. I just can't say enough good things about our choice to have Emily throughout our journey. She was always available and very responsive, it was very easy to schedule our visits with her and she was extremely accommodating. She always had answers to my questions and made me feel so confident as the time got closer... During our transfer to the car, she made the decision to get in the car with us because I was in so much pain and the compression she was doing was so helpful. I really don't think I would've made it there without her!! Needless to say, she was incredible for the rest of my labor and did everything in her power to keep me calm and comfortable. Once our son had joined us, she stayed and made sure we had everything we needed. She even went back to our house to get us a bag that we forgot and brought us back dinner with her! -Lindsey
Before being pregnant I wouldn’t have been able to tell you what a doula was, let alone the importance of having one in the birthing space. But it was beyond worth the research, because we are forever grateful to have found Emily McGregor 
After interviewing a handful, I knew I was waiting or that moment to find a familiarity and sense of “I feel like I’ve known this person”. Emily, had such a calm presence and strong sense of birthing knowledge, as well as an easy going mentality. Her Hypnodoula subtitle was an added bonus that complimented our Hypnobabies decision. We have gained not just a beautiful memory of Remi’s entrance with Emily’s support, but also a lifelong friend. -Lynette

There are not enough words to express my deepest gratitude for Emily. When searching for a doula, I quickly noticed Emily’s humility and confidence in her profile and I was eager to interview her. Once in contact, her responses were prompt, accommodating, and friendly....My birth story was drastically different from what we planned, so I was unable to attend additional meetings with Emily that she offered prior to going into labor....Emily came with tools and techniques to create a more “homey” feel to the hospital room and knew exactly how to reduce the pain through massage and additional methods. She was also incredibly helpful to my husband. When I arrived home from the hospital, Emily quickly scheduled a visit and her words of encouragement and support was exactly what I needed as a first time mom. She even came with BEAUTIFUL gifts that were so thoughtful! One of the gifts included a birth story letter with our daughter’s name in the center! It blew me away! Her ability to anticipate my needs was extraordinary and I could not imagine my birth story without her! I am forever grateful to her! -Courtney

Emily was an invaluable part of my birth team for my second birth. She was able to quickly clear her schedule and tend to my needs. She offered emotional & physical support during my very intense fast birth. She brought with her a rebozo which was tied to the birth bar on the bed I could hold & hang on to. She also brought a hot pack that she used to massage my lower back with. Both made a huge difference in my ability to cope with contractions that were on top of one another. I really appreciated having Emily's support during my birth. -Kira

Before baby came, Emily came over to help prepare myself and my husband for what to expect and to understand my birthing goals. As we got closer and closer to my due date, I was getting nervous. Emily kept up with me and encouraged me and gave me pep talks. Fast forward to the day of, when Emily came to the hospital, I felt a sense of relief. I had been in labor for a few hours and the contractions were getting stronger by the second. Emily really helped me to keep to my plan as much as I could, for as long as I could and empowered my decisions. She was also very helpful and supportive for my husband. She kept everything calm and although my plan didn’t work out the way I had hoped, Emily made sure that I knew how strong I was for going through all of this.-Brianna 

Emily was absolutely fantastic- I knew she would be a great fit for my birthing plan the moment we met!  The planning visit was a big help in addressing some of my fears and concerns about having an out-of-hospital birth.  When it came time to have my son, she was available and checking in frequently until it was “go time” to head to the birthing center.  Emily really helped keep me calm and remember my hypnobirthing strategies and I know my husband appreciated her experience with support techniques.  Such a great experience and I can’t imagine having done it without her! -Katerina

"Emily jumped right in and gave me the confidence that I needed to continue going... Emily provided me with an abundance of strength and joy... Emily will always have a special place in our hearts." -Shi

"Gary and I are so grateful Emily was a part of our son's birth. it was the most incredible experience and we really appreciated Emily being a part of it. Emily's knowledge and experience was so helpful. Emily's kindness and advocacy enabled us to bring our precious baby into this world" -Natasha

"Emily went above and beyond for us during our daughters birth. We appreciated Emily so much. 60+ hours of labor and she was behind us every step of the way." -Andrea